I’ve always wanted to customize a TUBBZ figure from Numskull and it was always going to be a Fallout figure, although to be honest that figure was going to be taking their power armor and giving it a new Nuka Cola paint job. BUT they beat me to it and actually have announced an absolutely incredible looking version of this… a nice and shiny one! My plan had been to make a battle damaged, rusty looking one complete with a rusty bath tub – But I’m pretty impressed with their concept instead!
This did mean that I had to find something else to do and thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to see one of them in black and white instead.”
As if by fate I went to Game recently and as I walked in I saw a Friends TUBBZ reduced to £6.49. I thought about it but that’s one set of figures in their range which I just don’t have that passion for… maybe because it has been so long since I’ve even thought about sitting down to watch Friends. I then however also saw a DOOM TUBBZ which I picked up for £6.99 after seeing no others. They did have to get the manager over though to change the price on the till as it seemed like they were priced up wrong! Ooops.
So as I was leaving I saw a whole bunch of other figures for the same price so assumed that it was actually just an issue with that figure and proceeded to pick up another 3 in this sale. As I was paying for these though the manager called someone over who proceeded to sprint around the shop picking up hand fulls of TUBBZ to remove £6.99 and £6.49 stickers off them! Again… Ooops, but they sold them for the price anyway and the next week I still found a couple more for the price so I really have no idea what was going on with that!
Anyway, why am I even telling you this?
One of those figures I picked up was the Nuka Cola girl which I already had so this gave me 2, and the perfect opportunity to try customizing one.
Preparing the figure
The Nuka Cola girl actually has 1 major hurdle to over come – something which is unique to her and an absolute pain in the backside! She’s got that clear space helmet.
That thing is really thick (nice job on the quality there NumSkull) and it is glued down. I spent over an hour on this carefully pushing, levering and even heating with a steam bath. I used a set of tools actually designed to removing screens from phones. This glue however is STRONG and I actually broke both tools in the process, but after just over an hour i had almost all of it left. All that was holding it on was maybe a 5mm stretch of glue and by that time I’d gotten confident and reckless – so you know what happened next!
Yep – I broke the clear plastic lid!
At certain angles you can’t see it and the figure didn’t come out nice enough to sell or anything like that anyway so she’s staying in my collection but still it would have been nice to have kept the nice undamaged visor.
After the lid was off though it was easy going and I put a few base layers of white acrylic paint on the figure… But it didn’t feel right and as soon as I put the first line of marker on the acrylic just came right off so I then had to go around the whole thing with nail varnish remover, soap & water and a lot of time to remove all of that white acrylic and also in the process some of the factory paint, roughing the surface up a bit in the process.
I will say at this point that I painted, removed and messed about with this figure so much in so many places that I don’t have any progress photos!
Once that had all been done though I was left with a nice new canvas which I then spray painted instead – something I should have done right from the start!
I’m pretty impatient so I went to hobby-craft and picked up the only white spray can they had which was a high gloss, although I would have preferred a matte one myself. It is a nice high end brand though, favored by street artists so at least I knew that this can of Montanna spray paint would give me the coverage I needed. I do wish I’d taken a photo of it all in one color – it looked so nice in glossy white!
And just like that the figure was prepared and ready for paint – it even dried really quick and I had it back indoors within an hour. When using spray paint however make sure not to go too thick. Lots of little light layers is the key and have a constant movement over the figure, don’t try to get one spot by hovering over it even for a second as it will clog with paint and drip.
Detailing the Paint Work
After the white base coat had dried I went over to using marker pens. While I was out at my local art supply show (Cowling & Wilcox in Canterbury) I saw some alcohol based markers by Winsor & Newton which were loose and had a few different shades of gray. I picked a few and then looked up and saw (for a much better price) a gray scale multi pack of the same pens which are dual ended (wedge on one and a solid brush on the other – with me using the solid brush for the whole project).
I don’t usually use ink or alcohol based pens as I personally always struggle to get a nice smooth finish, as you can see on the figure. I usually prefer to use acrylic marker (like Uni Posca or MTN), but I did like the selection of different shades here. There were 2 black pens and then shades 1 through to 5 in a cool gray and a warm gray, along with a blending pen. Using the blending pen you can get a slightly smoother finish (I went over the face with this a couple of times) but I still couldn’t get it right.
As for choosing the right shade of gray – that was just trial and error! if you’re unsure start a bit lighter than you would like and build the shades up – it’s easier to go darker than lighter.
If you’re not local to Canterbury they do sell these online through their online shop for £25.99 – I have to say that as much as I struggle with them they are a pleasure to draw with and that black is absolute killer! As far as black markers go I’d go as far as to say that it’s the nicest ones on the market that I’ve tried and if I want to black out any more TUBBZ bath tubs I won’t use anything else. With this black the finish is absolutely flawless.
A lot of the details don’t have much definition on the model from the sculpt so you do need to use your eye a little and having a reference for this kind of project is ideal. I for example only just noticed as I was writing this that I didn’t do any makeup above her eyes so the eyes are a lot smaller on my version of the model. Some of these sculpted areas are a little difficult to reach with a pen and I’m sure that if you’re skilled with airbrushes then you’d be able to get a much smoother finish on the edges. The only bit I REALLY struggled with because of the design of this particular model with under the beak on the top part of the helmet base as there just isn’t much room between the two. In the end I managed to get the blending brush in there a bit easier than the black pen for some reason.
Finishing it off with the Bath Tub
The bath tub was actually the easiest bit to do, it has a gorgeous finish and its one of my favorite parts of the whole project. I like the Fallout logo so the tub always looks cool anyway but when it’s white on green it doesn’t pop that much – seeing the white logo on a black background just looks so good! All I literally did with this is use those same pens and took my time coloring it in and tracing along the edge of the lines. You need a steady hand for clean lines but it’s a lot less faffing about than either making a stencil or masking it up.
How did I get on and would I do anything different?
I got on OK with it, and even though there are some bits which are hard to reach and the finish of my pens at any shade lighter than black is pretty poor, all in all I’m really happy with how my first attempt at working with one of these figures turned out. I have customized a few different figures now including Funko Pops and Munnys by KidRobot but I have to say that this was both the most challenging and most enjoyable to do. partly because I loved the concept and partly because I just love the figures.
For me, this particular figure is done and will sit on my shelf as it is, but I will certainly like to do some more in the future and here is what I will do differently when re-doing the same sort of design:
- I’ll look to see how they look with a matte base coat.
- I’ll finish it with a matte varnish.
- On the bottom of that bath tub I have kept the original sticker. If doing another black and white one I would look to see if I can reproduce the labels both on the bottom of the tub and on the lid to make those black and white too. That would just involved photographing / scanning them (preferably off the product but i think they will need to be soaked off) and just putting them through photoshop rather than redoing my own version.
- I will use an acrylic paint based set of markers rather than alcohol based as they give a much more uniform finish and you don’t have any of those streaks. They always do need to absolutely get varnished though if using acrylic pens.
As I said, it’s by no means perfect but for a first try for my own collection it looks absolutely brilliant from the other side of the room, and that the most important thing is that I had a damn good time making it.